PM's 'happiness plan' could lift Ed's spirits, says Campbell
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 11 January 2012
Alastair Campbell has praised David Cameron for adopting "happiness" as a goal of government policy and urged Labour to embrace rather than deride it.
Tony Blair's former director of communications said Mr Cameron had shown "courage" in pursuing the politics of happiness. In opposition, the Tory leader said the country should focus on GWB – "general well-being" – as well as GDP – gross domestic product. Since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister, the Office for National Statistics has launched a "well-being index" to measure people's happiness.
But Mr Campbell remains to be convinced that Mr Cameron is serious about the issue. He wants Ed Miliband to seize the initiative by including it in his campaign for "responsible capitalism".
The former spin doctor, who suffered a breakdown as a journalist before working for Mr Blair and still has bouts of depression, makes his comments in an e-book published tomorrow, The Happy Depressive. He writes: "There is much I disagree with David Cameron about. I think some of his policies will directly cause unhappiness among some of his electorate. But the idea that happiness should at least be considered when putting forward a policy proposal is a good one."
Mr Campbell reveals that Mr Blair rejected a plea by his Downing Street policy advisers to embrace this agenda.
"It is Cameron who is taking up some of the ideas presented to the predecessor on whom he sometimes models himself. There is a certain amount of courage required to adopt this approach right now, against the current political backdrop of economic turmoil, austerity, cuts and riots," Mr Campbell says.
According to Mr Campbell, there is "something profoundly non-Conservative at the heart of what Cameron is proposing".
Most traditional Conservatives think such issues are more for families and individuals than the state, while Labour is more open to state intervention.
"There will be scepticism about his commitment to see this through, but I hope he is serious about delivering on the well-being agenda," Mr Campbell says.
"What would be unfortunate is if in fact Cameron's commitment to happiness as a key factor in policymaking was something he just said at the time he was 'decontaminating' the Conservative brand... rather than a change of culture he is determined to implement.
"Because I do think if we genuinely applied this new approach it could lead to a lot of positive change."
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